Will Smith had grave concerns about loaning his friend Duane Martin over a million dollars to save his home from foreclosure, with newly uncovered emails revealing the actor had a feeling something wasn’t right at the time.
According to newly unsealed court documents, the actor and his team feared if they loaned the $1.4 million to Duane as he requested, it could turn into a "PR nightmare" for Will, specifically if anyone found out he was associated with such a transaction.
The emails are from 2012, when Duane needed the money to save his L.A. home, and asked his good friend Will for a loan. At one point, Will discussed buying Duane a home and letting him live rent free for a bit.
Will got his team involved in trying to put a $1.4 million loan together but unsealed court documents reveal it was "chaotic." Duane pressured his friend for the loan and even had to be warned by Will's team that while Will wanted to help, he didn’t want to put himself in any unnecessary risk.
Will's team began expressing concerns about how Duane wanted the loan structured, with his team worrying about the "questionable structure of the transaction."
"This is both a PR risk and a legal risk for WS," one of Will's advisors wrote in an email. "No PR nightmare can and will happen here."
The docs note Will eventually did loan Duane $1.4 million to save his home in 2012.
Duane tried to sell the home in 2018 and reached out to Will and his team again. Will's team suggested that Duane sell the home and repay Will and then lease a pad for one year. Duane then questioned Will's team about if this idea came directly from Will, to which his team confirmed to Duane it did.
As of July 2018, private emails show Will directing his team to wrap up all outstanding issues with Duane. He wrote one of his advisors, "The point is to SIMULTANEOUSLY Get the books cleared while Helping Shake transition." Will uses "Shake" as a nickname for Duane.
Things seemed fine until Duane and Tisha Campbell-Martin filed for bankruptcy and then divorced. The home wasn’t listed as an asset in the bankruptcy but court docs reveal Tisha rolled on Duane, telling the trustee he hid the home in question in the bankruptcy. The trustee then sued Duane, demanding he turn over the pad to help pay off his many creditors.
The revelations are a part of the lawsuit filed back in September, where the trustee in Duane and Tisha Campbell-Martin's bankruptcy sued Duane because the trustee believed he hid assets of $2.6 million under a company named Roxe LLC.
The trustee alleged that Duane set up Roxe LLC to allegedly conceal ownership of a 9,000 sq. ft. mansion in Chatsworth, California. Duane originally bought the home in 2006 for $900,000. He then borrowed $1.9 million for the purpose of constructing the "Martin family home."
Duane then defaulted on his loan and negotiated a short sale with the bank, and he used Roxe to buy the home back from the bank, using the $1.4 million loan from Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Roxe LLC became the owner and Duane and Tisha allegedly entered into a lease with their own company to pay rent of $5,000 per month.
In early 2018, Duane listed the home for $2,695,000 with the intention of pocketing all of the sales proceeds, after paying back Will and Jada, meaning he would pocket $1.3 million if sold at asking price.
The trustee says the lease was a sham and Duane and Tisha did not make all the payments on the house.
The suit is demanding Duane be forced to turn over the home to the bankruptcy estate and used to benefit his creditors. To be clear, there are no allegations that Will or Jada did anything wrong or had any knowledge of any alleged wrongdoings. Martin has also denied any wrongdoing.
Back in February, court docs filed revealed Will Smith had been subpoenaed by the trustee and was forced to turn over financial records and private emails and texts with Duane Martin regarding the loan and home.
The trustee believed the documents were the evidence to prove Duane committed fraud, showing him put pressure on Will Smith to loan him the money quickly.
The case is ongoing.